On most Friday and Sunday nights, you’ll find me hanging out with our students here at New Life. The pattern is the same on both nights; we hang out as a big group for a while and then break out into smaller D-Groups. If you’re not familiar with D-Groups, it’s short for Discipleship Groups. Here, in these groups, we’re free to talk about what’s on our mind and in our hearts. To be honest, we don’t always go deep. Sometimes it’s all about hanging out – going on a 7-Eleven or Rita’s run, playing board games or (when spring finally arrives) playing volleyball in the fields.
Each D-Group (we have 8 in total – 4 in Jr. High and 4 in Sr. High) has its own unique “personality”. It’s a place where we can share our struggles, doubts, and confess that we need Jesus. It’s also a place where we recognize and rejoice in the work the Lord is doing in our lives. Most importantly, it’s a place where we can be authentic – be ourselves. We don’t always do a good job at it – letting down our masks and being who we really are – but we try.
By way of encouragement, I’d like to share some examples, but I can’t. We have a long-standing rule, “What happens in D-Group, stays in D-Group.” It’s not that we don’t seek outside counsel and help when appropriate, but D-Groups are a safe place of community. That said, I don’t think the groups will mind if I share something we talk about and pray about a lot – evangelism. Or, to use the concept from my sermon on Sunday, being royal messengers.
Many of us in D-Group have experienced the joy of sharing the gospel message with our friends. For far longer than I’ve been around, students have been inviting their friends to join us for D-Groups, Feed the Homeless, Game Night and to just hang out. Some of these friends were seeking to understand who Jesus is. Others were skeptical or unbelieving. Through these invitations we’ve seen lives transformed by the Holy Spirit and friends come to rest securely in the promises of Jesus.
We’ve also experienced the sadness and pain of seeing the message of the gospel flatly rejected. Some of us have had a friend or family member who once followed Jesus but who has now have wandered far away from Him. Finally, some of us have friends and family who don’t rebuff the gospel but we’ve seen no fruit and no desire to follow Jesus.
After my sermon this week, I was asked by a few people how we share the gospel with those who seem indifferent to the message. As royal messengers, our job is to share the gospel and pray. No matter how much we want to, we cannot change hearts. The Holy Spirit, alone, is the One who changes hearts. We should find great comfort knowing that we are only to share the message; we leave the ‘heavy lifting’ of change to the Holy Spirit.
Still, how are we to share to with slow-to-believe friends, co-workers and family? Here are a few things I’ve learned from my D-Groups. First, we need to wisely share. We’re not called to be obnoxious or in-your-face. There’s something to be said about not casting your pearls before swine. That is to say, at some point, you’re simply tossing out the gospel knowing that it will be trampled underfoot and not well received. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share, simply that we chose wisely when and what we share.
Second, we are to pray. Nothing is accomplished without prayer! We should pray for hearts to be softened and ears to be receptive. But, we should also pray for more laborers in the harvest. Sometimes we need someone else to come beside our slow-to-believe friends and share their own testimony of God’s work in their lives.
Finally, we need to be in community with one another. For our Jr. and Sr. High students, D-Groups are a great place to be encouraged and to seek the wisdom of others about how to share the Kingdom of God. It’s also a place where we pray for the Holy Spirit to change lives. Be in community. If you’re not involved in a community group, prayerfully consider joining one. You can talk to Mark Moser about finding a group. Consider dropping a prayer request in the offering basket or in the box at the back of the church. Every Tuesday the staff gathers to pray and we love to join you in prayer. Remember, you’re part of a church family – you’re not in this alone.